This was fun!
The invasion of Danville -- along with its subsequent, heroic, noisy
liberation -- occurred late in the year in 1959. The action was
picked up by a fair number of newspapers that have online archives.
However, many of the articles are nearly identical, since they were
taken off the AP feed. I've included summaries of all the
non-duplicate articles below, along with information about how to
access the full articles yourself.
Before rating this answer, please let me know if you have any
questions, or need any more information. Just post a Reqeust for
Clarification, and I'll be happy to assist you further.
The archives of the Washington Post are available online at:
Searching on [ danville army dragon ] will take you to results that
include the following article -- you can access the full article (for
a modest fee) by following the sign-on instructions at the archives
Danville, Va., Is 'Captured' by Invaders In Realistic 'Dragon Head'
Exercise: Mayor Eludes Foe
The Washington Post
Nov 3, 1959. pg. A12
"Danville, Va., Nov. 2 (AP) This city was quiet tonight under a
"curfew" and "martial law" as the "Ridgeland People's Army" assumed
"control" in an Army exercise."
[As I mentioned earlier, I can't quote much more from the article due
to copyright, but here is a summary]...
Other pertinent information from this article:
--The exercise was known as "Operation Danville" and was part of the
Strategic Army Corps' exercise dubbed Dragon Head.
--Dragon Head involved areas in southern Virginia, as well as parts of
both North and South Carolina.
--The invading army's flag was a green triangle on a field of white,
and their uniforms were green and red.
--The Ridgeland People's Army consisted of 250 officers and men, and
included a patrol of several jeeps which invaded Danville in early
--The 17th Cavalry of the 82nd Airborne played the role of the
aggressors, with "surprising realism".
--It took them only two hours to secure the town, invading city hall,
arresting key officials, and hastening to "wipe out" small pockets of
--The town mayor, Julian Stinson, eluded capture until almost noon.
--An outpost of the good guys was established near the Sears Roebuck,
but they were quickly captured by the invaders.
--Captured prisoners (including town officials) were kept at a POW
camp and fed army rations.
--Oddly enough, the invaders had something of a Middle East bent --
their proclamations were signed by the general of the RPA, "Aziz
--A plane circled the battlefield and dropped leaflets proclaiming
that help was on the way, and that citizens should offer asssitance to
friendly forces when they arrive.
--The liberation of the town was scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 3, when
350 men from the 82nd Airborne were due to parachute into the town,
fight and win a pitched battle.
Another site, called NewspaperArchive.com, has numerous reports of the
Danville invasion, but all the articles are from the AP feed, so I've
included only one example here. You can access the site at:
and a search for [ danville "dragon head" ] will lead you to the
articles themselves (which, again, are available for a small fee after
signing on to the service)
Stevens Point (Wisconsin) Daily Journal
Tuesday, Nov 3, 1959
City In Virginia Awatis Liberation From Aggressors
"Danville, Va. (AP) -- This tobacco center, which has a taste of how
it feels to be invaded by unfriendly troops, gets liberated today."
The article goes on to say:
--the exercise is designed to test the Army's ability to fight a
"brush fire action".
--Dragon Head has been "in progress on paper" for more than six weeks.
--Troops have actually been in the field for over a week.
The NY Times carried two articles on the invasion, which can be
obtained from their archive site, operates very much like the
Washington Post archive site. You can find it at:
Note that the first article differs from the earlier articles in terms
of the number of invading troops.
Danville, Va., Seized in War Games
Nov 3, 1959, page 5
[The article includes a picture of the Mayor and other townsfolk
dining on C rations in their barbed-wire POW camp]
"Seven-hundred troops of an "aggressor" army occupied Danville today
as part of maneuvers designed to display the versatility of the
Strategic Army Corps".
--the invasion included the "chatter of machine guns" and the "jar of smoke bombs".
The following day, the Times ran a follow-up article:
TROOPS 'LIBERATE' CITY:Chutists Oust Aggressors From Danville, Va.
Nov 4, 1959. pg. 4
"This city was liberated today after having been in the hands of an
imaginary aggressor since yesterday morning".
--280 parachutists landed to the east of town
--the liberating army established HQ at the local airport
--machine gun and rifle fire brought the town's business to a
standstill during the climactic battle for city hall
I hope provides the flavor of this long-ago invasion, and gives you
the information you need to pursue your research, if you choose.
As I said above, if there are any questions, just let me know, and I'm
at your service.